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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Cruel Gossip Cruel Hoax

SOMEONE close to you has been missing for weeks.

You are worried sick.

You put up posters, look for her everywhere and as a last resort, you put up a website hoping against hope someone will help you find her.

But then, to your dismay, people go online and begin posting horrid rumours about your friend.

Some even abuse the contact information you posted online.

So you get prank calls and false information on your friend's whereabouts, leading you on heartbreaking wild goose chases.

This is what happened to friends of 19-year-old student Felicia Teo Wei Ling, who went missing more than a month ago.

The friends are now incensed over comments posted on a forum thread, where they used to get information on Miss Teo's whereabouts.

Miss Teo went missing on 30 Jun, and was last seen leaving a friend's flat in Marine Terrace. She had gone there after a party at the LaSalle-SIA School of the Arts campus, where she is studying.

Search efforts have been futile, and police still have no leads on Miss Teo's whereabouts.

Posting under a forum nickname, an Internet user on the popular local forum,, provided 'information' on Miss Teo's whereabouts.

The user, nicknamed playb0y, claimed that Miss Teo is now living with a friend named Ben, and that he had even seen her last Tuesday.

He claimed that she had taken to drinking, and had left home because she had failed her exams and didn't want to face the music.

He even provided a phone number - claiming it was Ben's - challenging visitors to the site to call and find out the 'truth'.

But repeated calls to the number went straight to a voice mailbox.

These, her friends said, are all cruel lies.

And the agony didn't end there.

Posters appealing for information on Miss Teo's whereabouts were put up all over Singapore.

Miss Teo's close friend, Mr Dahiyaht Yusof, 27, told The New Paper that in addition to the malicious online posts, he has also received numerous prank calls giving false information on Miss Teo's whereabouts.

His handphone number is one of two contact numbers provided on the website set up for Miss Teo (

On the site are also pictures of Miss Teo posing casually with her friends.

Mr Dahiyaht said: 'When we actually went down to the places they said she (Miss Teo) was, we realised that these were all pranks.'

He added that he firmly believes that MissTeo is 'not a runaway case', contrary to all the wild speculation on the forums, and on Miss Teo's website.

On how to handle these online rumour-mongers, Mr Dahiyaht said exasperatedly: 'What can we do? We just want to find her.'

He declined to comment further.


Another of Miss Teo's friends, who did not want to be named, told Shin Min Daily News that the forum posts about Miss Teo living with a friend were likely to be a hoax, because none of her closest friends knew of any 'Ben' she may have known .

'I called the number (given by Ben) to check - but it wouldn't get through,' he said.

There were many visitors to the Findfelicia website, but the thing that upset Miss Teo's friends further were dubious comments by visitors claiming they had seen visions of MissTeo in various places.

One user wrote that he had seen Miss Teo in a dream, being tortured and begging for help.

Crime Library founder and ex-policeman Joseph Tan, 40, who is helping in the search for Miss Teo, told The New Paper that these incidents were to be expected since Miss Teo's friends' contact information were so widely broadcasted.

'It's all right for friends to seek help, but when they are sent on all these wild goose chases, their morale is bound to be dampened,' he said.

Mr Tan said that when those closest to Miss Teo are highly anxious, false information on her whereabouts would only raise their hopes unnecessarily.

'In cases like this, I would encourage friends and family to refrain from putting up their own personal contact information,' he advised.


He added that in his experience, families of missing people who widely disseminate their contact information also find themselves prey to unscrupulous con artists.

He said: 'Some have even called families to solicit money.'

But these negative incidents aside, the search for Miss Teo is going on strong.

The Crime Library has put up a half-page advertisement in The Straits Times today with photographs of Miss Teo and five other missing people.

A notice is also placed on the Crime Library's website.

The library's 274 volunteers are constantly on the lookout for information related to MissTeo's disappearance.

Anyone with information on her should call the police hotline at 1800-255 0000.

Source: The Electric New Paper

Hope she can be found soon.

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